Norwich pub landlords could get EU boost on screening football

Pub landlords in Norwich who pulled the plug on Sky because of the rising cost of showing Premier League football might now be able to use cheaper foreign satellite equipment to screen top-flight action.

Sky and ESPN have the broadcast rights to Premier League football in the UK but broadcasters are now being warned they cannot stop customers using cheaper foreign equipment to watch the games.

The warning comes from advocate Juliane Kokott of the European Court of Justice, who said a block breached EU laws.

It follows the case of Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy, who was fined for using cheaper Greek satellite decoders to show top-flight football in her pub and argued the EU single market should let her use any European provider.

Chris Higgins, landlord of the Trafford Arms on Grove Road, who pulled the plug on Sky this year because of the high cost, said it could be a key breakthrough for pubs wanting to show football.

He said: 'Any opportunity to put back football on the screens again that's going to cost me less than �18,000 a year I would be delighted with. I don't know if it's going to be passed – it sounds all well and good – but if it is sanctioned by the European courts I will be delighted because it will give me an opportunity to put football back on at a reasonable price.'

Phil Cutter, landlord of the Murderers, which currently shows Sky, said using cheaper foreign satellite equipment to show games is something he would consider.

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He said: 'In the last year our prices have gone up by 25pc which is a massive increase. We pay �2,500 a month for Sky, but just by looking on the internet I could find a European card from Italy which I could buy for about �2,000.'

The case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been about whether a rights holder such as the Premier League can license its content on a country-by-country basis. Although the advocate-general's opinion is not binding, judges usually follow the guidance from the advocate.

In 2008 the Evening News reported how a seafront pub owner agreed to pay Sky TV more than �14,000 in an out-of-court settlement after showing live football matches without the right licence.

Neil Burgess of Notley's in Lowestoft reached the agreement after investigators discovered the pub was avoiding an annual bill of nearly �9,000 by illegally showing live games on a domestic system.

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